Planning a San Antonio vacation? Find your inner kid and drive it off the course

SAN ANTONIO - The seventh hole on the Resort Course at the Westin La Cantera is a roller coaster, literally and figuratively.

This drivable par 4 starts high on a rocky cliff and ends perched precariously next to a lake. Behind the well bunkered green, there stands a real roller coaster – and a few more amusement-park rides.

A thrill-seeker might, at this point, think: "I wish I had scheduled a little time for cotton candy and the Rattler."

While San Antonio has emerged as a golf destination, especially with the recent opening of the TPC San Antonio and JW Marriott on the city's northwest side, other things make it particularly attractive. If you plan a San Antonio golf trip and don't take at least a day – and really, one is not enough – to see some of the sights and attractions, you're committing a disservice.

San Antonio offers all sorts of things to see and do. Here are five fun attractions in the Alamo City that appeal to the kid in any golfer:

Fiesta, Texas theme park

I've visited Six Flags theme parks all over the country, and the atmosphere at Fiesta Texas might ranks as my favorite.

First off, the 200-acre park next to the Westin La Cantera sits in limestone quarry surrounded by 200-foot stone cliffs. The park has a real Texas feel – from the Rattler roller coaster (visible behind the Resort Course at the Westin La Cantera ) to the park's Los Festivales section, which celebrates the area's Hispanic heritage. This is where you can ride the Goliath, a coaster that climbs 10 stories before flying up and over a vertical loop.

There's also Spassburg ("fun town" in German), which pays homage to the German settlers who immigrated to the region in the 1800s. And you know what that means - authentic German beer and bratwurst. Additionally, the price of admission includes access to the water park, unlike some other theme parks, so bring a swimsuit during the hot summer months.

SeaWorld San Antonio

San Antonio's marine park, near the Hyatt Hill Country Resort , opened as the third SeaWorld in the United States after San Diego and Orlando. You'll find all the usual suspects like Shamu, walruses, penguins and lots of cool rides, including a great hyper coaster called the Steel Eel.

It also includes a first-rate water park, Lost Lagoon.

New for 2010 is the Azul Show, perhaps best described as something of a Cirque du Soleil with beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, colorful birds and human acrobats. There are also plenty of animal exhibits, including Dolphin Cove, where visitors can reach out and touch dolphins eager to swim toward the edges of the tank.

Drinks and dinner at the Tower of Americas

This 1968 landmark dates to San Antonio's time as host of the world's fair. Back then, to dine at the rotating restaurant 750 feet in the air was pretty special. It afforded 360-degree views of the city and still does today.

The difference? Landry's Restaurants provides an eatery, called the Chart House Restaurant, where visitors can try a Texas-themed, 4-D, multi-sensory theater experience. There's also an observation deck, and the famed San Antonio River Walk is within easy walking distance.

Barge cruise on the San Antonio River

Yes, it's a bit of tourist trap, but every visitor should take at least one cruise on a San Antonio River Walk barge. Guided tours provide a detailed history of the area, including the origins of the river and its development, as well as some compelling stories about historical figures who lived and worked in the buildings that still stand at more than a century old. Several restaurants on the River Walk also offer dinner cruises, which can turn especially festive at night with a Margarita or two in hand. Visit RioSanAntonio.com for more information.

Remember the Alamo

You can't go to San Antonio without touring the Alamo, right?

The Alamo, actually one of five missions established by the Spanish Catholic church along the San Antonio River in the 18th century, was built primarily to extend the dominion of the church northward from Mexico and to convert the native population. The group of five ranks as the largest concentration of missions in North America, and the Alamo, of course, is the most famous.

Before you visit, watch one of the many movies on the subject.

The Alamo, in he heart of the city, stood for 100 years before it fell in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. You'll recognize the often-photographed church facade, but there's so much more to explore, as evidenced by the relics in the Long Barrack Museum. The other four missions in San Antonio, worth a visit, remain open to the public.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Planning a San Antonio vacation? Find your inner kid and drive it off the course
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